Liberation of Hodeidah means ensuring safety of international waterways

Yemeni forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition gather near the outskirts of the western port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, on Tuesday. — EPA

Saudi Gazette report

JEDDAH — The launch of the battle to liberate Yemen’s main port of Hodeidah by the Yemeni army and resistance forces, aided by the Arab Coalition, gains significance to ensure safety and security of international maritime trade and waterways from the grave threat posed by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia. The recent attacks on Saudi and Turkish ships by the militia showed the intensity of insecurity prevailing in the international waterways and sea route.

After seizing control of the port, Houthis started imposing illegal taxes and royalties on ships and commercial cargo in order to fund their aggression against Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni people. The Houthis also misused their control of the port to smuggle in weapons, including ballistic missiles, of which they have so far used 149 to target the Kingdom.

The militia has also blocked the delivery of humanitarian aid and commercial goods that have arrived at the port. Large numbers of ships laden with fuel and foodstuffs were denied entry to the port by the militia and thus resulting in a fuel shortage crisis. Subsequently, prices of fuel and foodstuffs shot up in the regions under their control. This affected the normal life of the Yemeni people in general as well as the functioning of the power plants of hospitals in particular.

The best way to avoid the aggravation of the humanitarian crisis in Hodeidah is that the Houthi militias should hand over the management of the port to the United Nations. Houthis have rejected such a proposal mooted by the former UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed in 2017. They did not respond to the request made by the current UN envoy Martin Griffith that the management of the port shall be handed over either to the UN or to a neutral party, represented by a global port management company.

The only way to end the crisis in Yemen is the withdrawal of Houthis from all Yemeni cities, in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and their acceptance to negotiate as a Yemeni political party and not as an Iranian-backed militia.

The liberation of Hodeidah Port and the continuation of its operations effectively by the Yemeni General Authority for Transport along with the Saudi Ports Authority and its UAE counterpart would lead to the flow of more relief, food and commercial shipments.

Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed AlJabir tweeted on Wednesday that the liberation of Hodeidah will allow to Yemen’s main port to return to 2014 capacity levels.

“The liberation of Hodeidah will allow the full utilization of the capacity of its port back to the levels of 2014, it will also enable further expansion of the port’s capacity,” AlJabir tweeted.

“Hodeidah will be liberated, and the Yemeni people will gain back a major artery of life. An essential lifeline that was previously plagued by the Iranian backed Houthi militia,” he added.

The Yemeni army and resistance forces, aided by the Arab coalition, officially launched the battle to liberate the city and port of Hodeidah, west of Yemen, on Wednesday at dawn after the Houthis rejected peaceful solutions.

A military source said a large-scale ground operation supported by the Arab coalition’s aerial and naval cover began to march towards Hodeidah in more than one axis.

The Red Sea port is a lifeline for Yemenis, handling 80 percent of essential goods to the impoverished country, which the United Nations says is grappling with the world's worst humanitarian crisis

The assault is the first time since the Western-backed coalition of mostly Gulf states joined the war in 2015 that they have attempted to capture such a well-defended major city. The aim is to box in the Houthis in Sanaa, cut their supply lines and force them to the negotiating table.

— With inputs from Al Arabiya/Reuters